Last year I was teaching a group of “junior professionals” and I was really enjoying the ride.

Last year I was teaching a group of “junior professionals” and I was really enjoying the ride. The participants were highly motivated, so they loved coming to class. Most of them were cooperative and easy-going. However, there was one student (A) who relished contradicting absolutely everybody.

 

A poked fun at everyone’s weaknesses or queries in class. What’s more, he enjoyed teasing me. I found his jokes funny at the beginning but little by little I started to feel everyone’s uneasiness about his behaviour. Nobody could foresee what he was going to say or do next, which was totally uncomfortable. 

 

I have a tendency to trust people easily, I love interpersonal communication and I always try to see the sunny side of life. A, instead, complained about his colleagues, politicians, the company, the economy and so on and so forth. I tried to moderate his comments by saying something which could shed some light on his cynical views. He always had the same reaction:

 

“oh, yeah, I’d forgotten…you’re SO positive, aren’t you?. In fact, you’re far too naive. No offence”

 

I knew he held me in contempt. He felt I lived in a bubble where only teaching, feelings and my family mattered while he was working hard in that factory and there was little prospect of his climbing the career ladder. I decided to take it easy because I liked the that class and so did they.

 

One day we started talking about an issue concerning the corporate world. I hadn’t planned that but students were really engaged, so I looked for supplementary material to work on. A said bluntly:

 

“We’re dwelling on this topic. We should drop it unless you’re too innocent to believe all those lies”.

 

I decided to smile and added:

 

“Ok A, why don’t you bring to class what you like? I volunteer to design tasks to work on that”

 

A was surprised and started to tell me what he wanted me to do. I tried to be as positive as I could and just asked him to be nice and not to find his own material boring. He chuckled at my comment.

  

We followed our syllabus and took some time to deal with what A had suggested now and then. I wanted to establish rapport with him. As A was a bold type of person I started to behave in the same way with him. I used to unexpectedly stop at some point in our classes and asked:

 

“A, have we worked on this for too long? Do you allow us to stay with it a little longer?”

 

He found it funny and always had something to say back:

 

“oh yeah yeah we could continue with this a little longer”

 

 I went telling him things like:

 

“oh, what a relief. I trust you so much. I know you’ll tell me when it’s time for a change”

 

After some time, A said to me:

 

“I think you’re innocent but I don’t think you’re stupid”

 

I replied:

 

“Neither do I. I’m surprised at your comment. Is it a compliment?”

 

A’s change was amazing. He cooperated with his peers and with me. By the end of the year we got on with each other really well. I’m proud of him (and of myself!).

 

So what do you think?

 

Cheers!

 

 

Georgina Hudson's blogs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

 

Comments

Dear Georgina hudson, You are really a tactful trainer. The way YOU brought round the trouble maker is really praise worthy. Your tips or experiences help other teacher trainers like me a lot. yours lovingly, JVL NARASIMHA RAO ANDHRA PRADESH INDIA

Dear Georgina,
I am really surprised to be called Mr Andhra pradesh by you. I would like to know why you call me so. You are a tactful writer. I know you mean what you write.
Yours lovingly,
JVL Narasimha Rao
India

Dear Mr. RaoMy guess is that the author mistakenly interpreted your name because of the in your 1st reply you had this in the end "JVL NARASIMHA RAO, ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA". Often the Names of people and States/Cities of a country are not very well known in other countries. I think thats why she mistakenly 'GUESSED' that your name is Andhra Pradesh. It happens !!Well I guess, now we all know your name now :) Cheers Now     

You should see my face now as I'm frowning and making faces in front of the computer screen due to the embarrassment I feel. I'm afraid I thought it was your name.
I should start learning a little bit more about places. I do, I read a lot, I still need to work on that a little bit more. I hope you understand I love your comments and I'm also your follower. A little ignorance interfered here. I'm so sorry.
Anyway, this is a great opportunity to ask you about your country and to do some research on my own.
Mind you, I love India and I hope I can go there some time soon. I practice yoga, I've read about some of your customs and some novels by Indian authors. Anyway, fortunately, I still got lots to learn.
Lots of love, from Argentina
Georgina

Sammy (I hope it's not a place!) I feel so silly right now. You see, sometimes I find myself juggling the blogs, the lesson plans, the replies, my baby's care (who's very fond of shutting down my computer) and things like this may happen.
As you said, we all have a clear idea of Mr Rao's name. You've been most kind.
Thank you again.
Kind regards,
Georgina

My dear Georgina,you have made me more popular than I am. Thanks a lot. I would love to read your blogs and comments. I thought you purposefully called me mr andhra pradesh as i am representing my state. mr sammy has come to our rescue. His guess is right. I am afraid sammy is not a woman. I would love to read your blogs and comments. I am proud to represent my state and country. You are right in the sense that I am one of the very few bloggers on this site representing my state, Andhra PradeshYours lovingly, JVL Narasimha Rao from Andhra Pradesh India

Dear Georgina,WOW! You are really patient.In teaching we are bound to come across a variety of personality types and learning styles from students who have different reasons for being in the class.  You pointed out that "the participants were highly motivated" and it's a good thing they were considering the fact that they had to share a space with A.In an ideal class the students are cooperative and easy-going as yours were and along with that usually comes a healthy sense of humour.  However, another important part of the picture is respect.  You say that he "poked fun at everyone’s weaknesses or queries in class and even enjoyed teasing you. If any member of the class, be it teacher or student, shows a significant lack of respect for others it is no longer a safe environment for learning and students will certainly lose that love for coming to class.I quietly went along with your story until you said:"Nobody could foresee what he was going to say or do next, which was totally uncomfortable"How could a teacher or student feel comfortable in a class where their experience, knowledge, and intelligence is regularly questioned?Constantly contradicting people seems to be part of some people's nature and can in fact have its place in the classroom in that it gets people thinking, analysing, communicating. But there has to be a limit and it is up to the teacher to set it. For this reason, if I see that someone is really being disrespectful of others I find it very difficult to keep quiet.  I have to pull them aside. After reading your post I feel I need to go back and read it again to review the timing.  Maybe I missed something.  Maybe his negative behaviour didn't persist for as long as I thought. Your story seemed to have a happy ending but I hope that A's classmates all managed to get through the experience without any scars.  What happens in classrooms can have lasting effects upon us.Just my two cents.Terri 

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